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As a teacher, what kind of attitude would be desirable?

I am an English teacher in Korea. (I am not in a school, but in some private educational institute.)
I teach young teenagers--11 to 16 yrs.
Since we have a quite tight curriculum, I just have to force them to study really hard and keep up with my class even though I know that it would be not that helpful to them.
I even think that it can be devastating to their creativity.
I really don't want to be the one who ruins their creativity.
I sometimes hate to point to out their inappropriate behaviors.
For example, we are supposed to scold them if they draw some ridiculous cartoon characters on their textbooks because that means they don't concentrate on their study. But I sometimes want to let them do it. It can be helpful to foster their creativity, right?
I just want them to study freely and I want to let them enjoy some interesting activities.
But my right is limited. There's a bunch of schedule in this institute.
Since it's a kinda big institute, my opinion is not accepted.
Am I not disciplined?
Well, if so, I wouldn't mind at all because I don't think being just strict would be the right answer for this situation.
How can I change this strict way of education in this country?
What would be the desirable attitude for me?
Any ideas?

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    Jun 4 2012: Firstly, your open mind makes you ideally placed to be a teacher so keep doing it for the good of the children, open -mindedness is a great role-model characteristic! The fact that your asking this question is brilliant. Secondly, the more rigid the curriculum the greater the need for creativity within it. I have seen the most formal elements of learning taught in the most exciting ways. Based on my experience here is my advice on how really make an impact:
    1. Be passionate about why teaching English matters to YOU.
    2. Get to know what each student is really passionate about within your subject and allow them to express that in their work.
    3. Notice how the students want to communicate, that is to say if someone wants to draw on their book cover, channel this into their work (draw a picture of your poem or a storyboard before you write about it) If they prefer to talk then write the piece up as a scene in a play first. I understand there is pressure from your school leaders to show results and often creativity is (wrongly) seen to divert children from formal outcomes, but I believe creativity makes ALL subjects more interesting and personalized for students. It's this personalization which allows them to feel fully connected to their work.

    Trust me, when reports of your lively and interesting lessons (which get results the children are delighted with) reach your headteacher, then your methods will be freely accepted. You do however need to be resourceful and tenacious about building creativity and flexibility into your lessons whilst still delivering what is expected. I agree with Bob, it's a tightrope, but one well worth walking. Be brave, take the first step!
    • Jun 10 2012: Very encouraging! And also one of the realistic solutions here.

      I will keep your every word in mind :)

      Many thanks! :)
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    Jun 7 2012: You are working withing a system that is very fixed. Teenagers appreciate HONESTY. Be very "straight-up" with them. It is ok to tell them that you do not agree with everything that you have to put them through. But explain to them that we have to learn to operate effectively in the societies of which we are a part. We have to play by the rules and if we don't agree with those rules, find a way to get them changed.
    Look very closely at where you might be able to do that yourself. (Example is the greatest teacher.)
    Carefully consider where you have some control over the situation and where you don't. Teach your students to do the same. Recognize that sometimes change and progress takes time.
    Most important: Be open and honest with them.
    Good luck!
    • Jun 10 2012: Really appreciate your advice!
      Helpful indeed.

      Love your attitude :)

      As you said, being honest would be the first step for me!
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    Jun 5 2012: Education of children in a nation, is usually focussed on the attainment of national goals, and consideration for cultural ideals. There are disciplines and routines that need to be instilled on young ones, for the vision of the future to be attained.
    But the talents and individualities of learners and young ones should also be considered by policy makers and educators.

    I think you should encourage your pupils to maintain a balance(it may not be easy) between the requirements of the curriculum, and the demands of personal development.
    • Jun 5 2012: Your idea is very reasonable, thanks. :)
      And you pointed out the fundamental problem here.

      I can understand the theory, but what I really struggle with is that how I can do that specifically.
      I'm trying to be flexible and receptive to the students, but motive is not enough.

      Anyway, thanks for your advice.
      I couldn't agree with you more.
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    Jun 7 2012: Well Elizabeth,
    A very sweet topic indeed. After reading your question twice, I felt you know very well what exactly is going wrong in the education system . So you have defined the problem , so solving it is not going to be tough as long as you have a caring yet disciplinary attitude towards your pupils .

  • Jun 5 2012: I think the education system needs teacher like you. You should be proud of yourself of being different.
    Maybe you can inspire other teachers to be different as well, so dont change yourself! :)
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    Jul 4 2012: I guess my answer would be hungry for knowledge and self disciplined ideally.
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    Jun 20 2012: Well, one thing that you may want to consider is that South Korea has been that strict for a good minute.....This does not mean that all is lost! You can work with the system. Changing the system would have to be a cognitive change on all levels within the country. Teens from all walks of life appreciate honesty, and straight forward people. Let them know what is going to happen if they do not focus, but also show them things that could entice their creativity. Use the South Korean very vibrant culture, the Culture from the Western Countries like US, Canada, and Mexico (than discuss the contributions on what South Korea has given to each of these countries. I hope that this helps you!

    • Jun 21 2012: I'm grateful for your advice:)
      How encouraging!
      You're really positive!
      Btw, I'm trying to be honest to my students and to tell them what would happen if they do not study hard--not just for their parents or teachers,but it's all about themselves!
      I think it's quite important to me to work with the system while trying to change the way of it.

      I'm not gonna give up. :)
      Thanks !
  • Jun 11 2012: Oh on doodling their was a Ted talk that was called doodler's unite(or something of that sort), that talked about how some people retained more information if they where doodling i believe. Somebody fact check me on this.
  • Jun 10 2012: All sorts of teaching styles can be effective, but having one mesh with the society that they are growing up in is very important. The lessons I learned best in schools often where slightly outrageous where we got to see the teacher for whom they were, and not a mark of the school.(Joshua Foer talk on memory I think is very accurate on this point.) I had a Physics teacher that would fail to shut is car door when driving out of the parking lot letting the forces he taught do the work. Rigid structures are often ripe for creative ways to get around the rules and tapping the students creativity for that often can make them learn faster and better. Randy Pausch Last Lecture(viral video) also has some really good ideas if you can be free to impose some of your own metrics teaching the class.
    The desirable attitude can vary quite a lot. My second grade math teacher was the first teacher I ever heard cuss a parent out, tough as nails and you didn't want to disappoint her. My fifth grade teacher always expressed a blind faith that i had found the correct answer(leading me to some very creative math problem solving techniques.) Being honest with your style is the more important. Also do not allow the students to control the classroom unless you can get their goals properly aligned with yours.
    Often students would rather have fun than study, so finding ways to co-mingle the two can be good, but is always dangerous. Finding places to practice English also can be good that are away from the classroom or boring exercises. Make sure both you and your students know they value of what they are learning in the classroom.
    The final and most important point is set your expectations high. With the internet and modern tools they can get a lot of exposure to English in various forms use these as teaching aids. Just because something written or spoken beyond their general understanding level doesn't mean they cant help you break it down into understandable parts.
  • Jun 7 2012: I don't think it is necessary or advisable to try to change the institution. The best and most powerful thing you can do as a teacher is to recognize the special gift or talent that the student possesses and acknowledge it.
  • MR T

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    Jun 6 2012: An excellent way to think of teaching!

    When I was in school the teachers I liked most were the relaxed, storytelling, creative types. When you are at ease you learn better is my belief.
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    Jun 5 2012: Love what you are doing i mean. I have been a difficult child student and I think the only way a teacher got my attention was to interact on a personal and individual way got my attention form trust (leader). And I have met and know senior teachers and phd lecturers and professors and they are so happy doing what they do; pleased to help someone. I also am a professional student and study finished last year in engineering and i enjoy a teacher that applies themself too.
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    Jun 5 2012: Enjoy thier company with authority and amuse them. like what you are doing!
    • Jun 5 2012: Oh, man, you're being reeeeeeally sarcastic. lol

      Hope you don't mean it, do you?

      What's the point in being cynical in this situation?

      That kind of attitude cannot change anything.
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    Jun 5 2012: Hi Elizabeth! I'm 16 and I'm also Korean. I only lived in Korea when I was enrolled in 1st and 2nd grade so I may not have been personally exposed to the strict and tough teachings of Korea, but my entire family as well as my friends live there, so I can assume. First, before I answer your question, let me ask you something. The students in my school enroll in the IB Program. It is a very rigorous, intense course with a great portion of materials that have to be learned. Do you believe that overall, the students of Korean school learn more than students enrolled in IB Program?
    • Jun 5 2012: cute question :)
      You know what? I don't know how intense it is, but it can vary depending on students or teachers.
      Dealing with a lot of materials is not the main concern here.
      Too purposeful, and too tight curriculum give no break to students.
      Besides, there's no respect (in this education system)toward students--strictly speaking.
      We just have to "train" students to get some satisfiable results from them.
      I assume that in the country you live in, you guys give some incentive to the students, right?
      And make the students study hard by themselves.
      Well, whether you live here or not, the stress you get from the school or academy could be same, but the way of teachings can be fundamentally different.

      In Korea, there are a bunch of foreign language high schools and other special-purpose high schools.
      Some are more rigorous and intense than IB program.

      You should check that out as a Korean , lol

      :) regards~
  • Jun 5 2012: I agree that educational system is an outdated mechanism that supresses creativity and makes kids and youth less wiling to experiment, fail and learn along the way.

    Memorizing should be less important with today's technology. Rather creativity, interactive learning in team environment will make the youth more empoyable and willing to even start their own companies.

    Without enought local experience it is hard for me to give a specific advice. However i would try to work within current rules and use some new tools that will help kids to learn better. For example, online free tool called Khan Academy is a great way for kids to study in self-pace manner. Giving students interesting and engaging projects, letting them be more in control how they learn and asking them for feedback on how to make learning fun can work well?

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    Jun 4 2012: Being a teacher is a tightrope walk at the best of times. Attempting to satisfy administration, students, parents, and cover the curriculum is multi-tasking at its worst. Is the drawing on the cover creative or the act of individualism. This is me, etc ... If you do not abide by the policy sooner or later it will be seen and as one of your students it will come back to haunt you.

    Your "attitude" should be receptive, interested, concerned, and caring. You are a role model (like it or not). Obeying the rules does not mean being strict. A little humor goes a long way but in your country use it strictly as a teaching tool and you students will appreciate you and make more efforts in your class because you care.

    All the best. Bob
    • Jun 5 2012: "Being a teacher is a tightrope walk at the best of times."

      Tell me about it!
      You really know how I feel.
      What an impressive quote!

      Thanks for your advice. :)

      Best, Elizabeth